Bitterballen (beef roux croquettes)

very difficult

50 (depending on the size)

Never thought I would ever be able to share this recipe for bitterballen, but after a lot of trial & error I am finally happy with the result. Bitterballen are a Dutch/Belgian chipper snack made from a beef roux. The outside is very similar to normal croquettes, but instead of an oblong shape these are round. They are one of my favourite snacks but they are impossible to get in Ireland. If you live in Australia though, you are in luck as there are plenty of Dutch expat shops around that do sell them.

What to look out for

Making these is not easy, at all. So much can go wrong in pretty much every step of this recipe. It all starts with the beef, I first used plain stewing beef and it was just horribly dry. My fiancé then cooked something using shin beef and I knew right away that was the beef I had to use too. Shin beef is very tough but becomes almost gelatinous when slowly cooked for a long time. I bought mine in Whelans with the bone still in it for extra flavour. I highly recommend getting yours in a butcher too so you can get it with the bone as well.

The first time I made this, I made a stock from scratch, using fresh carrots etc. The next time I decided to just use a bag of soup vegetables as it already is quite a lot of work and this shortened it a bit. However, the flavour of fresh veggies really is amazing so if you got time, slice & dice fresh carrots, leek & celery. I used 2 carrots, 1 large leek and 2 small celery sticks.

Next part then is the roux itself, it shouldn’t be too runny but shouldn’t be solid either. The first batch I made was just too runny and it never set in the fridge, making it a disaster to try and roll into balls.

And then of course there is the last part, which is the crispy outer layer. As with croquettes you want to make sure the bitterballen won’t burst when they are frying. I used golden breadcrumbs instead of panko as it’s not as coarse, but it does mean the breadcrumb layer is very thin which could easily burst. The easiest solution was to double batter them but I have seen other people go for a triple batter as well. As always, my recommendation would be to try 1 bitterbal with 2 layers, do they burst? Go for a third one (make sure to buy plenty of breadcrumbs though).

One final note. I don’t own a deep fryer myself, I only have an air fryer. I cooked these bitterballen by heating up vegetable oil in a deep but small pot (ideally you want this to be fairly high but not too wide). And cooked them in batches like that. The biggest downside is that the temperature might be too hot or too cold as it’s hard to control.

Bitterballen (beef roux croquettes)



Adjust Servings
500g shin beef (also called shank) with bone
320g soup vegetables or a mix of carrots, leek, celery
1 large onion
1l water
2-3 Oxo beef stock cubes
4 bay leaves
3 fresh rosemary twigs
3fresh thyme twigs
150g plain flour
75g butter
3 gelatine leaves
175ml double cream
1 egg yolk
350g dried breadcrumbs
2tsp nutmeg
5 eggs or more, it all depends on the size of the bitterballen and how many layers you go for
5tbsp cornflour
10tbsp flour at least


We start with the fresh beef stock.
Heat up a knob of butter in a deep pot. Roughly chop the onion and add it to the pot. Add the soup veggies once the onion has softened.
Add the stock cubes along with the water, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary.
Mark as complete
Add the beef (do not cut it up first!)
Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for at least 1 hour, for the best result cook for 2 hours at low heat.
Mark as complete
Remove the beef from the soup, make sure you have everything taken out
Strain the stock to remove the veggies. Put the strained stock aside for later.
Pull the beef apart, you can use two forks or even put it in a food processor for a few seconds.
Mark as complete
Melt butter at low heat in a deep pot (you can reuse the one from the stock)
Add the flour and stir well with a whisk. Let the dough dry up in the pot, this will form the base of our roux, the drier this is, the more stock we can add and the stronger our bitterballen will taste.
Gradually add the cream, keep whisking. Increase to medium heat if the sauce isn't thickening.
Mark as complete
Slowly add 400ml of stock
Add the nutmeg
Once the sauce has thickened a bit, add the egg yolk and let it stand at low-medium heat to thicken.
Mark as complete
Put the gelatine leaves in cold water to soak
Mark as complete
Your roux should now be a thick sauce. Remove it from the heat.
Squeeze the gelatine leaves and stir them into the sauce, make sure to stir well.
Add the pulled beef, season with salt & pepper (go easy with the salt, remember stock cubes usually have a lot of salt in them too). You should now have a really thick pâté. It should not be runny at all, if it is you should consider either adding more flour (not the best solution) or more gelatine (better, it won't affect the taste unlike flour).
Mark as complete
Grease an oven dish with neutral oil (no olive oil)
Pour/scoop the thick beef pâté in the dish, cover with cling film and press the cling film down onto the mix. Let it cool down in the fridge for 2 hours or more.
Mark as complete
Put three bowls ready to roll the balls in
Bowl 1: a mix of flour and cornflour, it should be 2 tbsp of flour to 1 tbsp cornflour. Start with about 6 tbsp of flour, you can always add more later. Bowl 2: 1 egg, whisk it really well. I am only using one egg at a time as the egg mix will get dirty from the flour from bowl 1. I used about 1 egg for every 10 bitterballen and then added a new one. Bowl 3: breadcrumbs, same here, don't add them all at once, but add enough to cover about 10.
Mark as complete
Roll small balls out of the beef pâté
Don't make them too big, we are not aiming for these to be meatball size. Something around 4cm is ideal.
Do this in batches of about 5 balls at a time. Make sure to cover the rest of the pâté, and ideally put it back in the fridge so it doesn't start "melting".
Mark as complete
Roll the balls in the flour bowl
Coat it well, then move on to the egg bowl. It's really important that every part of the bitterbal is covered in egg so that the breadcrumbs will stick to it. Move on to the breadcrumb bowl, then go back to the egg bowl and finish with breadcrumbs. If you want to triple coat them, the repeat the egg & breadcrumb bowl one more time.
Set aside and finish the batch. Place the finished batch in the fridge or even in the freezer.
Mark as complete
Continue until all bitterballen are done.
Mark as complete
Heat the deep fryer to 180°C
Fry them for 3-4 minutes until golden brown.
Mark as complete
You may need more flour, breadcrumbs, egg & cornstarch for the crispy outer layer. It all depends on the size of the bitterballen and how many times you want to coat them. Quantities listed here are the minimum you'll need.
You can easily freeze these by putting them in freezer bags after rolling them in the batter - before frying them. They can stay frozen for up to a year.
Best served with ketchup, although some people prefer mustard or mayonnaise

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